What props up morality?
Serena Wong

25 January 2018

Where does morality originate from? Kevin Simler tackles this question on ribbonfarm by comparing morality to a leaning tower, with virtue increasing as the floors increase. Simler questions how the tower remains supported, especially considering self-sacrficing altruistic behavior, a type of behavior from the very top of the tower. Perhaps, he suggest, morality benefits the individual as a Darwinian mechanism in survival.

However, this theory comes with a couple bitter pills to swallow, including the idea that even those acts we consider morally good are motivated by self-interest. Simler then explores group selection, which looks at survival of the group, rather than of the individual. Yet this theory also leads to a troubling conclusion in the majority of cases: morally bad people will out-compete and out-survive morally good people.

So which origin of morality do we root for?

Read the article here: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2017/11/28/the-leaning-tower-of-morality/#more-6149


Comments (1)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, January 26, 2018 -- 9:01 AM

I wrote something recently,

I wrote something recently, related at least partially to this topic. My essay included a discussion of ethics, morality, competition and conflict, wherein I tied these to one another, as integral parts of the 'human condition'. Morality comes from a general desire to control man's baser drives, and in response to his more-or-less universal gravitation towards pleasure and aversion to pain. It was, doubtless, floating around long before there was anything resembling a belief in 'voices, oracles, gods (and hallucinations)' [see: Julian Jaynes' THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND] This era/epoch was, in its turn, long before god with a capital G appeared on the scene. Religion, when duly organized, was intended to further distill and refine this control mechanism...like good Scotch or Bourbon. Sadly (or perhaps, naturally) there would always be those who would thumb their noses and stray from the fold. 'Morally bad people' have not yet absconded with the totality of the world. Could they? It has not happened yet, so I'm not worried. The notion that bad people will prevail, to the complete detriment and destruction of the good, while not impossible, is a stretch. If laws fail us, we can always strengthen them or enact better ones. This is what we do.